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viking male grave


(Courtesy Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences)

Archaeologists have uncovered a Viking cemetery dating to the turn of the eleventh century A.D. near the central Polish town of Bodzia. The graveyard holds close to 50 people—warriors and their families—and consists of neatly arranged plots enclosed by wooden fences, each containing up to three burials in wooden caskets with iron fixtures.

Men were buried with weapons, including Viking langsax (single-edged swords). Women's graves contained jewelry made from glass, gold foil, precious stones, and silver. Other finds included silver kaptogora (amulet containers, left), glass ornaments, coins from throughout Western Europe, and the remains of silk from the Far East.

"We suppose the individuals buried in Bodzia belonged to a small but high-status community," says project leader Andrzej Buko, director of the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology. In addition, he says, "Many of them probably came from abroad."

Evidence suggests the warriors emigrated from a nearby state in what is now Ukraine, though Buko concludes from the quality of the weaponry and other characteristics of the burials that the deceased had been absorbed into the elite of the early Piast Dynasty. The Piasts ruled in Poland from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries.

The finds support chronicles by Gallus Anonymous, Poland's first historian, who described a military stronghold near Bodzia with elite foreign warriors—perhaps these Vikings.